Veterans and serving soldiers turned out to pay their final respects to D-Day veteran Jack Riley, who died aged 99.

Veterans In Communities Piper Steve Sumner led the Standard Bearers and Jack’s hearse past a guard of honour of more than 60 people, both veterans and serving personnel, which formed at the entrance to Accrington Crematorium.

Jack died on December 28 at Highfield Hall Care Home, had previously lived in Central Flats in Haslingden, and had been a member of local veterans’ charity VIC for seven years.

His funeral took place three days after what would have been his 100th birthday.

Jack chose to join the armed forces in 1942, even though, as a plumber, he was in a ‘reserved occupation’ so exempt from conscription during the Second World War.

After completing infantry training, the new soldiers were in Stalybridge, Tameside, when officers came in and asked if anyone could use a spanner.

Everyone who raised their hands, which included Jack, then became founding members of the newly formed corps the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

On June 6, 1944, Jack was in one of the last waves of soldiers to be sent across the channel to the Normandy Beaches in the D-Day landings.

He was interviewed in 2022 when he received the Legion d’honneur, the highest military medal from France, for his actions in the landings, which signalled the beginning of the liberation of France and laid the foundations for the Allied victory on the Western Front.

Jack described what it was like on the landing craft.

He said: “It wasn’t rough or anything like that…but the spray was the biggest thing, with it having a flat front it would dip and [the spray] covered you.

“I was on the scared side, but I wasn’t showing it and I think everyone was in the same boat.

“They were wondering and saying, ‘I wonder if it will be a wet landing, up to here’, (indicating to his neck) because we had heard about things before; being in four foot of water, they weren’t fit to fight by the time they got ashore, they needed to dry out.

“I had never swam with kit on and some drowned. I was fortunate really.

“The hardship was nothing to do with the enemy or that, but we had to go about in bare feet when we were in the fields so we didn’t leave traces and it was like walking on needles. We had to put our boots under our arms.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

At his funeral, Celebrant Sarah Flanagan talked not only of Jack’s war record - he spent five years in the forces - but also of his life as a son, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

He met his future wife Brenda after he broke his leg, and while in a military hospital, the soldier in the next bed was from Colne.

He had two daughters and asked Jack to become a pen pal to one of them. A year after being demobbed, they married.

After service, he first worked as a driver for Hollands Pies for many years and latterly would visit schools to talk of his wartime experiences mending military vehicles on the front line.

Lancashire Telegraph: VIC Project Worker Ray Sharkey with Jack Riley when he received his Legion d’honneur.

VIC Project Worker Ray Sharkey delivered a eulogy, when he read out the citation Jack received from the French Consul Honoraire for Greater Manchester when he received his medal.

Rodolphe Soulard said: “France wants to thank you for the commitment you showed to our country during the terrible campaign in France.”

Ray added: “Jack would often walk across to the VIC Centre and share a cup of tea and a doughnut while the veterans in attendance listened to him spellbound and stunned that he was there for some of the most pivotal events of World War 2.

“As a student of history, I felt honoured to know Jack as a friend and living legend, the like of which this generation can only aspire to be.”